Human skin is exposed to infrared (IR) radiation (760 nm-1 mm) from natural as well as artificial sources that are increasingly used for cosmetic or medical purposes. Epidemiological data and clinical observations, however, indicate that IR radiation cannot be considered as totally innocuous to human skin. In particular, IR radiation, similar to ultraviolet radiation, seems to be involved in photoaging and potentially also in photocarcinogenesis. The molecular consequences resulting from IR exposure are virtually unknown. Recent studies, however, have begun to shed light on the basic molecular processes such as cellular signal transduction and gene expression triggered by exposure to IR radiation. In response to IR irradiation, mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathways were activated mediating the upregulation of matrix metalloproteinase-1 expression. This previously unrecognized molecular 'IR response' shows that IR radiation is capable of specifically interfering with cellular functions and provides a molecular basis for biological effects of IR on human skin.